Derek Jarman Pocket Park blog – part 13

2023 – It’s a wrap!

view of the Derek Jarman Pocket Park with a few visitors sat on the benches

2023 feels significant for the Derek Jarman Pocket Park group as it is the first full calendar year that we have observed and looked after the garden since its completion.  The initial planting took place in February 2022, so 2023 was our first Autumn with the natural dying back of many of the plants for winter and the gradual coming to life of the hellebores.

View of the front of the gallery with snow on the tops of the plants in the foreground and bare trees

We have been reflecting on our favourite moments of 2023 in the Pocket Park, our thoughts about the garden as it develops and our continued focus on Derek Jarman as an artist and gardener as well as an important trailblazer for LGBTQ+ rights. 

Two of Derek Jarman’s books Modern Nature (1991) and Smiling in Slow Motion (2000) are written in diary form, which lends itself to noticing and reflecting on the changing seasons and the detail of the natural world within a garden. David, one of the pocket park volunteers, has recently listened to Modern Nature as an audiobook on Audible read by the actor, Julian Sands who sadly died last year and was a friend of Jarman since the 1970s. 

Modern Nature was Jarman’s first book about his Prospect Cottage home and the start of his garden, which happened by accident! David particularly enjoyed the audiobook experience of Modern Nature, ‘I am really glad I listened to Julian Sands reading Modern Nature on Audible.  I got so much connection and inspiration from this and would recommend it.’ 

Portrait of Derek Jarman in his garden
Image credit: Howard Sooley

Mindy, another member of the pocket park team enjoyed the practical work of maintaining the garden throughout the year and watching the plants thrive and compete with each other as they each came into bloom. It was encouraging to see our efforts bringing so much pleasure and enjoyment to visitors and passers-by.  We have also been keeping note of the growing variety of wildlife that has visited the garden over the year, including goldfinches, mice, dragonflies and of course…slugs!

snail looking out over a portion of the fence

Barbie’s appearance in the garden at the time of the blockbuster film’s release was a fun highlight of our gardening year!  Her appearance is still shrouded in mystery but we are delighted that she was gifted to the Pocket Park and has stayed with us through the winter. She’s even changed her outfit recently and is now sporting a stylish winter jacket & woolly hat! We love having her in the pocket park and look forward to seeing her spring and summer outfit when the weather improves!

She’s definitely channelling the spirit of Jarman, who used figures such as Action Man and He Man in some of his assemblages. 

Barbie doll in the garden
Spring/ Summer Barbie
Barbie doll in the garden wearing a beanie hat and a red bag
Autumn/ Winter Barbie

Peter joined the volunteer team during Summer 2023 and for him, Pride was his first opportunity to take part in an event in the Pocket Park. It was a way of feeling part of Manchester Pride celebrations, welcoming families to the garden and helping them take part in the gardening activities on offer. One of Mindy’s highlights of 2023 was also Pride weekend and the photography workshop that she provided.  Using her photography skills in the Pocket Park has stimulated her own creative work and we are very fortunate to have many of her wonderful photos illustrating our blog posts.

a group with their printed outcomes from the photography workshop

Participants of Mindy’s photography workshop with their photographs

As I write this blog post, the Pocket Park has had its first real experience of snow!  We’re grateful to Sarah, the gallery’s Social Media supremo who took some photos for us during the recent snowfall.  We were especially excited to see the hellebores in full flower and looking beautiful with their snow accessories!

Hellebores with snow at the front of the gallery

We are looking forward to the coming year maintaining and developing the Derek Jarman Pocket Park. Looking back on 2023, Mindy reflected that during the year was the first time she realised that the garden project had real longevity and wasn’t only linked to its origin i.e. the 2021-2 Derek Jarman Protest! exhibition at the art gallery.  There are exciting times ahead with plans to introduce new plants and increase the variety of wildlife in the garden as well as keeping in touch with our fellow gardeners in Manchester’s many urban gardens and green spaces.  We are all committed to maintaining and developing these beautiful pockets of nature in our city, which can only make us all happier & healthier!

Hazel Errey – member of the Derek Jarman Pocket Park group



The Derek Jarman Pocket Park is supported by The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Pocket Parks, Pride in Ageing at the LGBT Foundation ManchesterThe IGNITION ProjectRoyal Horticultural SocietyExterior ArchitectureThe Postcode Lottery Trust, Manchester Wellbeing Fund and United Utilities.